ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Turmeric, a staple at juice bars and in the kitchens of cooks who like the root for its color, flavor, and suggested health benefits, is showing more promise than ever.
Researchers at the University of Central Florida and Nemours Children’s Hospital think they may have found a way to amp up the benefits of the Asian spice.
New researcher suggests a component in turmeric called curcumin could be used to treat Neuroblastoma, the leading cause of cancer in infants.
About 700 kids under the age of five are diagnosed with Neuroblastoma in the United States each year.
Advanced cases of Neuroblastoma are hard to cure and treatments such as chemotherapy can have lasting effects.
"The survival for high risk neuroblastoma is 40-50 percent. And that is with very intensive therapy,” said Dr. Tamarah Westmoreland, a surgeon and researcher at Nemours.
Westmoreland teamed up with Dr. Sudipta Seal , who directs the University of Central Florida’s Technology Center and Advance Materials Processing Analysis Center.
The team of researchers wanted to study whether or not curcumin could be used to shrink Neuroblastoma cells without the side-effects of treatments like chemotherapy or radiation.
“There are many other studies that are looking at curcumin in other tumors, so we thought we should look at this in neuroblastoma as well,” Westmoreland said.
Researchers in the UCF nanotechnology lab attached curcumin to nanoparticles seventy-five times thinner than a sheet of paper.
"Nanoparticles tend to move towards the cancer cells, just inherently,” explained researcher Craig Neal.
When the nanoparticles reach the cancer cell, they drop off the curcumin "almost like dropping a bomb in the cancer cell,” Westmoreland said.
According to the researchers, images taken through a high-powered microscope suggest the medicine from mother nature destroys the cancer but does minimal damage to healthy cells around it.
“This shows nanoparticles can be an effective delivery vehicle for cancer drugs,” Seal said. “More research is needed but we are hopeful it could lead to more effective treatment of this devastating disease in the future,” he added.